You will laugh and even cry a little at this daring show, but I guarantee you’ll leave with a deeper understanding of the complex issue of Gender Identity. Chicago playwright Philip Dawkins takes us into a shelter/safe place for the LGBTQ community, where a glamorous black transgender woman attempts to teach the rules of proper behavior. Her ‘students’ are hyper-hostile young people, outcasts of society struggling to define themselves sexually and racially.
The battle is on for this surrogate mother to humanize these firebrands through gentle rules of decorum and politeness. Will ‘Charm’ help them handle their daily battles with identity confusion, poverty, threats of violence and prejudice? Well, go and see for yourself.
Awesome cast: Lana Houston is tough-love Mama Darleena Andrews; Esteban Andres Cruz is Latina bombshell Ariela; Rebekah Walendzak is dedicated watchperson D; Armand Fields is gentle giantess Jonelle; Chris Aguila is heart-rending Lady; Shoniqua Shandai is affectionate Victoria and Tre Hall is her macho-mate Donnie; Ashley Romans is the sadly inarticulate Beta, and Alexander Hogy the gay curious-seeker Logan.
I first admired Michael Matthews direction on “Peter Pan, the Boy Who Hated Mothers.” Here again his brilliantly cinematic staging moves swiftly from laughter to rage to poignancy, separated by almost balletic scene changes.
The wonderfully grungy set by Archer Boinkevents is well lit by Matthew Brian Denman. Dynamic sound by Cricket S. Myers and germane costumes by Allison Dillard. Produced by Rebecca Eisenberg for Celebration Theatre.
At the Lex Theatre, 6760 Lexington Ave. Hollywood, through October 23. Tickets: 323 957-1884 or www.celebrationtheatre.com
Photos by Matthew Brian Denman
Also reviewed in the October issue of NOT BORN YESTERDAY.